Ranking Every MLB Player Making over $25M in 2022

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystApril 21, 2022

Ranking Every MLB Player Making over $25M in 2022

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutMichael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    There are two dozen players making more than $25 million for the 2022 Major League Baseball season, and some of them are much more valuable than others.

    Pretty much everyone on the list is a multiple-time All-Star who also happened to have an excellent season or two right before signing a huge deal. Between injury, age and general regression, some of these guys would be lucky to get $10 million on the open market right now, let alone $25 million. But there are also quite a few who are arguably still being underpaid.

    These 24 players have been broken into seven tiers, with the ranking philosophy based on the following question: How excited/mortified would you be if you woke up to the news of your favorite team signing this player to a one-year, $25 million deal for the rest of this season? (The question doesn't really work if your favorite team already has said player on the roster, but just go with it.)

    One quick note before we dive in: Zack Greinke is technically making $25.5 million this season, but it's $13 million from his current team (Royals) and a deferred $12.5 million that his former team (Astros) will be paying annually through 2026. As such, we decided not to include him. Though, if you're wondering, he would slot in around No. 15 if we had, as the 38-year-old has gotten out to a solid start back in his old stomping grounds of Kansas City.

The Albatrosses

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    Trevor Bauer
    Trevor BauerJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    24. Trevor Bauer, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers ($35.3 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 16.2
    2022 Stats: N/A

    Bauer has been on administrative leave for nearly 10 months now as Major League Baseball continues to investigate a woman's allegations that he sexually assaulted her on two occasions. But administrative leave means the Dodgers are still paying the 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner his gargantuan salary. Bauer won't face criminal charges in the case, but MLB can still suspend him or ban him from the league for good. If he's allowed to pitch again, perhaps he climbs back into the Nos. 10-15 range on this list. For now, though, this sure is a waste of money for the Dodgers.


    23. Justin Upton, OF/DH, Free Agent ($28 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 8.1
    2022 Stats: N/A

    Like Bauer, Upton is getting paid a lot of money to not play in Los Angeles. When the Angels designated him for assignment less than a week before Opening Day, they paid him $28 million to go away. He's still one of the players making more than $25 million this season, though, and it shouldn't be long before someone signs the 34-year-old outfielder with 324 career home runs. It would be comical if he went to the A's or Mariners on a league-minimum salary and ended up hitting a home run or two against the Angels.


    22. Miguel Cabrera, DH, Detroit Tigers ($32 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: negative-0.1
    2022 Stats: 9-of-32, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .695 OPS

    At some point in the next few days, Miggy is going to become the 33rd member of the 3,000 hit club, and it's going to be a super cool moment. So was the moment last August when he clubbed the 500th home run of his career. But the Tigers have paid Cabrera a lot of money over the past few years for no return on investmentand they still owe him another $32 million for the 2023 campaign. He's probably going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer one day, but the 39-year-old is a millstone weighing down the Tigers.


    21. David Price, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers ($32 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 6.9
    2022 Stats: 3.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1,09 WHIP, 12.3 K/9

    Playing out the final season of his seven-year, $217 million contract, Price has been reduced to little more than a middle reliever and a "break in case of emergency" spot starter. He was one of the best pitchers in the bigs in the 2010-15 timeframe, but his durability went downhill in a hurry after turning 30. He did play a huge role in Boston winning the 2018 World Series, though, and he still does put up respectable numbers, albeit in considerably fewer innings.

Getting Ugly in a Hurry

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    Anthony Rendon
    Anthony RendonAshley Landis/Associated Press

    While it's not yet an "albatross" situation for these two relatively young guys who were awesome just a few years ago, there sure are some people starting to freak out about how many seasons are left on these contracts.

    20. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers ($26 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 22.3
    2022 Stats: 8-of-37, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, .767 OPS

    The Brewers signed Yelich to a seven-year, $188.5 million extension in March 2020 with two years left on his previous deal. That means they're just now beginning to pay the 2018 NL MVP at that price point, desperately hoping he figures out how to bounce back from the past two disappointing years.

    Yelich batted .327 with a 162-game pace of 47 home runs and 121 runs batted in from 2018-19. But since ending the 2019 season with a broken kneecap, those numbers have plummeted to .234, 19 and 68, respectively, in 2020-21. Unfortunately, early returns in 2022 suggest more of the latter.

    At the time of the extension, $26 million per year through 2028 seemed like one heck of a bargain. Not so much now.


    19. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Los Angeles Angels ($36.6 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 23.3
    2022 Stats: 7-of-32, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 SB, .628 OPS

    At least Rendon had a productive first season in Los Angeles after signing a seven-year, $245 million contract. In 52 games played during the pandemic-shortened season, he hit .285 with nine home runs and finished 10th in the AL MVP vote.

    However, 2021 was a much different story, as he battled groin, knee and hamstring injuries before undergoing season-ending hip surgery. He hit a career-worst .240 in just 58 games played and looked like a shell of his former self. Like Yelich, the first two weeks of Rendon's 2022 season have looked much more like 2021 than 2019.

    It's bad enough that the Angels are paying $28 million for Justin Upton to not even be on the roster. If Rendon doesn't turn a corner soon, it might be yet another postseason without Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

If They Could Just Stay Healthy...

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    Stephen Strasburg
    Stephen StrasburgSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    18. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals ($35 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 13.9
    2022 Stats: N/A

    Strasburg's seven-year, $245 million extension during his magnificent run in 2019 was both justifiable given his talent and terrifying given his injury history. The latter has prevailed since the Nationals won their World Series title, as Strasburg has made just seven starts in the past 30 months with no telling when he'll be back from his most recent surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. Here's hoping he can get back close to full health one day, or else the Nats will be stuck paying a ton of money to him along with plenty more deferred money to Max Scherzer.   


    17. Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox ($30 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 18.2
    2022 Stats: N/A

    From 2012-18, Sale was maybe the greatest pitcher to never win a Cy Young Award. He finished top-six in the AL vote in seven consecutive years, averaging nearly 11 K/9 with a sub-3.00 ERA. But he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and he is going to miss at least the first 60 days of the current season after suffering a stress fracture in his rib cage in February.

    Sale turned 33 last month, though, so he's young enough to conceivably come back and give the Red Sox a few more dominant years. Still, with just nine regular-season starts since August 2019, he's got a long way to go to get back to where he was.


    16. Corey Seager, SS, Texas Rangers ($33 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 15.2
    2022 Stats: 11-of-38, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, .736 OPS

    The Rangers are betting big on Seager's injury woes staying in the rear-view mirror, as the 28-year-old shortstop is in year No. 1 of a 10-year, $325 million deal. "Seags" has played in just 56 percent of possible games over the past four seasons, missing most of 2018 following Tommy John surgery and a good chunk of last year with a broken hand. But he should be good for something in the vicinity of 25 home runs, 90 runs batted in and a .300 batting average if he ever manages to play a 162-game season.


    15. Giancarlo Stanton, DH/OF, New York Yankees ($29 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 15.0
    2022 Stats: 11-of-43, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, .685 OPS

    Biceps strain. Shoulder injury. Knee injury. Hamstring injury. Quadriceps strain. And those are just the injuries that have sidelined Stanton in the past three seasons. He also missed a significant portion of both the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. When he stays healthy, he has proven capable of hitting 59 home runs in a year, and he has also driven in at least 100 runs on three occasions. However, let's see how many games the 2017 NL MVP manages to play this year.

The Current/Former Astros Tier

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveMatt York/Associated Press

    14. George Springer, OF, Toronto Blue Jays ($29.7 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 18.2
    2022 Stats: 12-of-45, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, .801 OPS

    Having missed at least 13.5 percent of possible games played in each of the past five seasons, Springer provides a nice transition from the "can't stay healthy" group to the rest of the list. When Springer does play, he's wildly effective, batting .276/.361/.521 with a 162-game pace of 40 home runs and 102 runs batted in during those five seasons. And he never seems to suffer major injuriesjust strains and sprains for the most part—so he doesn't feel as snake-bitten as some of the others with nine-figure contracts.


    13. Carlos Correa, SS, Minnesota Twins ($35.1 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 16.5
    2022 Stats: 7-of-38, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, .595 OPS

    Correa is on a three-year, $105.3 million deal with the Twins, in which he holds a player option for both the 2023 and 2024 seasons. So, if he plays well enough this year to get the type of 10-year, $325 million offer Corey Seager got this past December, there's a good chance he'll be playing elsewhere next season. To that end, a sub-.600 OPS through the first 10 games of the season is neither what he nor the Twins had in mind when they worked out this agreement. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year will need to be much better the rest of the way in order to justify making more than 25 percent of Minnesota's payroll. 


    12. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros ($29 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 21.2
    2022 Stats: 6-of-36, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 SB, .518 OPS

    Long gone are the days of Altuve batting .320 and averaging nearly 40 stolen bases per season, but "easier out than when he was a three-time batting champ" and "easy out" are two very different things. Altuve is still quite productive atop the Astros lineup, scoring a career-best 117 runs in 2021 while batting .278 with 31 home runs. It hasn't been a great start to 2022, but the 31-year-old second baseman should come around soon.    


    11. Gerrit Cole, SP, New York Yankees ($36 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 23.5
    2022 Stats: 11.1 IP, 6.35 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 9.5 K/9

    Cole should probably be a few spots higher on this list, but I thought it'd be fun to lump together all the guys currently making a ton of money after playing a huge role for the Astros toward the end of the 2010s. Also, the $324 million man had a 4.25 ERA over his final 15 starts of last season and has gotten out to a rough start to the current campaign. That's a small sample size compared to how dominant he was from April 2018 through June 2021, but it's still something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Expensive but Valuable Corner Infielders

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    Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado
    Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan ArenadoJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    10. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals ($26 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 20.5
    2022 Stats: 6-of-34, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB, .535 OPS

    Did you know Goldschmidt has received at least one vote for NL MVP in eight of the past nine seasons, including a sixth-place finish in 2021? Goldy triple-slashed .295/.394/.526 during those nine seasons while supplying good enough defense to win four Gold Gloves at first base. He's a six-time All-Star, but he still feels a bit underrated. He'll turn 35 this September and might be nearing the end of the line, but I'd still take him on my team in a heartbeat.


    9. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers ($27 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 21.3
    2022 Stats: 13-of-44, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, .804 OPS

    Freeman hit .295 or better in each of the past six seasons, and the move from Atlanta to Los Angeles hasn't had any negative impact on the 2020 NL MVP's hitting ability. He made more than $20 million in each of the past five years, but he had to go to L.A. on a six-year, $162 million deal to join the "over $25 million" club. Getting his first home run in Dodgers blue in the first AB of his career against the Braves was a cool moment.


    8. Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres ($32 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 18.9
    2022 Stats: 19-of-52, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 3 SB, 1.045 OPS

    From 2015-21, Machado batted .280 with a 162-game pace of 35 home runs and 100 runs batted in. Whether honing his craft with the Orioles, the Dodgers or the Padres, he has consistently been one of the better hitters in baseball. As of Wednesday morning, Machado is leading the majors in both hits (19) and runs scored (11). He also has one hell of an arm at the hot corner and should really have more than two Gold Gloves on his mantle by now.


    7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals ($35 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 22.6
    2022 Stats: 13-of-34, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 1.344 OPS

    Since we mentioned Machado's 2015-21 numbers, we've got to do the same for Arenado: .291 batting average with a 162-game pace of 39 home runs and 123 runs batted in. While Machado probably should have won a few more Gold Gloves while in Baltimore, Arenado has been the National League's Gold Glove third baseman every season of his career—not to mention four Silver Slugger awards from when he was really mashing with the Rockies from 2015-18. Between his success in recent years and his red-hot start to the current campaign, we'd be willing to entertain arguments for Arenado to be as high as No. 2 on this list.

The Phillies/Mets Arms Race

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    Zack Wheeler
    Zack WheelerJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    6. Zack Wheeler, SP, Philadelphia Phillies ($26 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 18.3
    2022 Stats: 7.2 IP, 9.39 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 7.0 K/9

    Wheeler doesn't have anywhere near the career numbers of the other two pitchers in this tier, and maybe he doesn't deserve to land five spots ahead of Gerrit Cole. But Wheeler was phenomenal over the past two seasons since relocating from Queens to Philadelphia. He narrowly missed out on winning the NL Cy Young last year with a 2.78 ERA and 247 strikeouts in 213.1 innings of work. The Phillies took a bit of a risk in giving him a five-year, $118 million contract, but it has paid off nicely thus far.


    5. Francisco Lindor, SS, New York Mets ($34.1 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 22.6
    2022 Stats: 13-of-42, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB, 1.061 OPS

    Lindor's first season with the Mets started out rough and later included a 36-game stint on the IL. But over his final 81 games in 2021, he was on a 162-game pace for 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in. This year, he's already back to looking like the perennial All-Star from his days in Cleveland. That's wonderful news for the Mets, who still owe him more than $300 million through the end of 2031.


    4. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets ($36 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 27.6
    2022 Stats: N/A

    One could argue we should put deGrom in the "If They Could Just Stay Healthy..." tier since we haven't seen him since last July, but the two-time Cy Young Award winner averaged 30 starts per year from 2015-19 and pitched every time through the rotation during the shortened 2020 campaign. It wasn't until nine months ago that there was any indication deGrom was anything less than a durable robot built to mow down opposing hitters. His career 2.50 ERA and 1.011 WHIP are just laughably dominant.


    3. Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies ($27.5 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 21.0
    2022 Stats: 10-of-45, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, .765 OPS

    Harper already has two MVPs (2015 and 2021) under his beltone of 32 players in MLB history with multiple MVP honorsand he doesn't turn 30 until October. Maybe he'll drop off by the end of the 13-year, $330 million deal that will theoretically keep him in Philadelphia through 2031. Even if that happens like it did to Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols, Bam-Bam should still have at least five more MVP-caliber seasons left in the tank.


    2. Max Scherzer, SP, New York Mets ($43.3 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 27.6
    2022 Stats: 3-0, 18.0 IP, 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 11.5 K/9

    Fun fact: If you include the $15 million in deferred money Scherzer is getting from the Nationals this year (as well as each of the next six years, by the way), he is making slightly more in 2022 ($58.3 million) than Mike Trout and Trea Turner combined ($58.1 million). That's a bit excessive, but with three Cy Youngs and five other top-five finishes in the past nine years, it's not hard to understand why Scherzer is so well-compensated. "Mad Max" will turn 38 this July, but he has yet to show any signs of slowing down—even carrying a no-no into the sixth inning against the Giants on Tuesday.

The Mike Trout Tier

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    Michael Owens/Getty Images

    1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels ($37.1 million)
    2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 29.6
    2022 Stats: 8-of-37, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .972 OPS

    In case you somehow forgot because he missed most of last season with a torn calf muscle, Mike Trout is still ridiculously good at baseball.

    The Angels center fielder just turned 30 this past August, but he has already surpassed Ken Griffey Jr. in career FanGraphs WAR78.3 for Trout; 77.7 for Juniorand ranks 40th all-time among hitters with plenty of quality years still to come. Trout has won three AL MVPs and had finished top-five in that vote in each of the nine seasons prior to the calf injury.

    Since he made his MLB debut in 2011, there are only three players within 30 fWAR of Trout: Clayton Kershaw (60.1), Max Scherzer (58.2) and Buster Posey (53.8). And even Posey is an entire Trea Turner (24.4 fWAR) behind Trout.

    Just three weeks after the Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract in February 2019, Trout signed his 12-year, $426.5 million deal with the Angels. That's one less year and nearly $100 million more. And yet, it still kind of feels like the Angels got a bargain for one of the greatest all-around players in MLB history.

    Here's hoping the HBP on his hand that has held him out of action the past few nights isn't anything serious, because we want to see Trout in all his glory in 2022 after missing him last summer.